Thursday, January 15, 2009

Anthologies of African-American Writing

Although the official Martin Luther King Jr holiday is not until Monday, today -- January 15th -- is his actual birthday. He was born January 15th, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, and was assassinated 39 years later in Memphis, Tennessee. There will be lots of events on Monday to celebrate the birth of this great and important man -- and how wonderful to be honoring him on the eve of the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president! In the meantime, however, there are some new books in the store to help get things started. The African-American Experience: Black History and Culture through Speeches, Letters, Editorials, Poems, Songs, and Stories is edited by Kai Wright and contains excerpts from more than 300 primary documents recording the transformation of a people in captivity into a proud community defined by its members rather than by its oppressors. These excerpts, organized chronologically, include writings by Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Cornel West, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, and many more. The anthology is pubished by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.

Two other new anthologies in the store are Best African American Essays (with guest editor Debra J. Dickerson) and Best African American Fiction (with guest editor E. Lynn Harris). Gerald Early is the series editor for both books. The fiction anthology will showcase the year's most outstanding fiction by some of today's finest African-American authors. Refreshingly, not all of the stories are set in the US, as African-American life plays out beyond the borders of this country. The anthology also includes young adult material.

The essay anthology is intended to showcase the range and variety of African-American essays, including personal, literary, polemical, intellectual, comic, and contemplative writings. And while the series promises to feature writers of African descent, it will also, from time to time, reprint good writing by non-African Americans on African-American subjects. Both of these anthologies are published by Bantam Dell, a subsidiary of Random House, and are the first in what will be annual anthologies.

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